Emerald Cove Middle School Receives Grant For Diverse Titles

We Need Diverse Books (WNDB), a nonprofit striving to diversify the publishing industry from creation to classroom, recently announced the five winners of the inaugural round of the Books Save Lives Grant, including Emerald Cove Middle School in Wellington.

These five schools, each located in battleground states where pervasive book bans are quickly expanding, will receive up to $5,000 in diverse titles. The funds will purchase more than 250 quality, diverse titles, rushing these books to schools to immediately fight back against discriminatory bans barring students from life-affirming texts.

Book challenges doubled in 2022 — reaching the highest rate ever — according to the American Library Association, disproportionately targeting diverse titles. Each challenge often aims to ban multiple, sometimes hundreds, of titles. These challenges have restricted reading opportunities for more than four million children nationwide, denying students access to identity-affirming stories and books providing diverse perspectives.

Selected schools are located in states with soaring numbers of book bans. Recent restrictive laws now require extensive and time-consuming vetting of new titles, a process previously streamlined, efficient and focused on providing students with diverse titles that promote literacy, build empathy and reduce racial bias. The Books Save Lives grant will supply diverse titles specifically requested by winning educators, circumventing the arduous review process to ensure the books go where they are most needed — directly into the hands of students.

Other schools receiving grants were: Clay County Schools in Clay County, Florida; the Fort Worth Independent School District in Fort Worth, Texas; and Brandywine Middle/High School in Niles, Michigan.

“The simple act of reading the right book at the right time can change a reader’s outlook, perspective and even their future,” said Amy Yuzenas, media specialist at Emerald Cove Middle School. “The Books Save Lives program is the perfect answer to what our students need in these turbulent times. This grant will allow our students to grow not just intellectually, but also emotionally and socially.”

WNDB Executive Director Caroline Richmond aims to expand this program. “It’s imperative that students across the United States, no matter where they live, have access to diverse, life-affirming titles. Book bans and challenges have created a critical shortage of diverse texts, and we are responding to this emergency with immediate action. Students will be able to read books they can see themselves in this school year because we believe in fighting these bans head on,” Richmond said. “These grantees care deeply about their communities, and with this program we are honored to provide books that will encourage literacy and understanding.”

WNDB created the Books Save Lives program specifically to address these bans. Books Saves Lives is a three-pronged approach to providing diverse books, educator resources and author support all where it is needed most. Grantees can choose from a list of nearly 500 titles.

Established in 2014, WNDB strives to support and amplify diverse literature by mentoring marginalized creators, providing resources to diverse publishing professionals, and donating diverse books to schools and libraries nationwide. Learn more at www.diversebooks.org.